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CALPIRG Seeks to Accelerate California’s Renewable Energy Goals

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The California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) is seeking to accelerate California’s Senate Bill (SB) 100 and commit the state to a goal of using 100% renewable energy sources by 2030 instead of the current goal of 2045. 

CALPIRG Students is a student-directed non-profit organization that was founded by presidential candidate Ralph Nader in 1972 and has since expanded to eight UC campuses and USC. The organization works to “provide the training, professional support and resources students need to tackle climate change, protect public health, revitalize our democracy [and] feed the hungry,” according to their mission statement.

UC Irvine Chapter Chair Sage Wuu described CALPIRG Students as an organization that primarily serves to facilitate access to students’ needs and advocates for environmental justice reform. 

“We work to protect the environment, tackle food insecurity, register new voters and a plethora of different issues that students care about,” Wuu said. “We like to say that we are for students, by students.”

Photo courtesy of CALPIRG UCI Chapter/Facebook

Wuu is also the chapter’s 100% renewable energy campaign coordinator. According to Wuu, the campaign’s ultimate goal is to modify SB 100 by encouraging the state “to accelerate the timeline to 100% clean renewable energy in California to 2030 instead of 2045.” 

“We’re going to do that by asking Gov. Newsom to make that commitment even faster after showing a lot of grassroots support,” Wuu said.

SB 100, which was signed by former California Gov. Jerry Brown in 2018 and committed the state to generate 100% of its electricity from clean, renewable energy by 2045, had also garnered support from CALPIRG prior to its implementation.

“CALPIRG was an early supporter,” CALPIRG Executive Director Emily Rusch said in a blog post regarding the bill. “One of our biggest roles was finding and working with an army of student volunteers through our student chapters, to demonstrate that California’s younger generations want and believe in a clean energy future.” 

The SB 100 success has been followed by other commitments to clean energy. According to the CALPIRG website, shortly after the bill was passed, “the UC system committed to 100% clean electricity by 2025 and cited CALPIRG’s 100% renewable energy campaign as a reason why they made the commitment.”

California reached a renewable portfolio standard of 50% renewable energy last year, a decade ahead of SB 100’s original 2030 target. This has driven CALPIRG’s ambition to increase the pace of reaching the state’s ultimate goal of 100% before 2045 and to garner public support for accelerating the initiative. 

“We’ve been working on gathering petitions for the campaign,” Wuu said. “At UCI, we’ve gotten over 1400 petition [signatures] so far, and we’re working on getting at least 2000 total before we campaign [and] lobby in March in Sacramento.”

The transition to clean energy for the state is anticipated to have a variety of environmental, economic and social benefits. 

“Moving towards 100% clean energy will boost our economy and drive more innovation, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs in the regions that need it most,” the California 100% Clean Energy Coalition states. 

Locally, Orange County has taken steps to implement 100% renewable energy. According to an OC Waste and Recycling statement, Brea’s Broadrock Renewables Power Plant powers 30,500 homes with biomass energy generated from county landfills. The plant has received the Project of the Year award from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Landfill Methane Outreach Program and a $10 million stimulus grant from the U.S. Department of Energy for its “use of industrial energy efficiency technologies that reduce carbon pollution across the country.” 

According to Wuu, the CALPIRG Students UCI chapter will hold a clean energy summit in April to further discuss the benefits of an accelerated energy transition in California.

Eva Cluff is a City News Intern for the winter 2021 quarter. She can be reached at ecluff@uci.edu.